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Mar 15, 2010
Robert, As we are the party that asked the Attorney General to make a determination on whether or not the "probable or imminent litigation" exception was appropriately cited as reason for holding the July 7 closed session, we certainly will be apprised of the village's response and any further developments that result. We will report what we know as soon as we hear it. Thanks for your interest.
Stephen: Grayson told plan commissioners at the June 29 public hearing that "more than 1,000 names of residents who live in La Grange" could be found on the customer list from the North Riverside pawn shop that Grayson managed for the past several years. Listen to the audio:
GMYH, I never raised an objection to the village wanting to extend financial aid to the theater. My concern was solely that the public have access to the whatever information village officials were using to make their determination. Thom Rae
While I find the logic of the court's ruling compelling enough to believe that a crime likely was committed by using a public garage to store at least one personal vehicle, I also acknowledge that no park officials as of this time have made public statements espousing a like conclusion. So I have amended the headline and post above to reflect their position.
Chris W.: Yes, I specifically used the word "illegally" because I believe it applies in this matter. Storing one or more personal vehicles in the garage at Gordon Park violates Article VIII, Section 1(a) of the Illinois Constitution, which reads: "Public funds, property or credit shall be used only for public purposes." If the responsible party is a public employee, then violating the above law is the basis for a second illegal act known as "official misconduct." Here is a relevant excerpt of that statute: (720 ILCS 5/33-3) "Sec. 33‑3. Official Misconduct. A public officer or employee or special government agent commits misconduct when, in his official capacity or capacity as a special government agent, he commits any of the following acts: [...] (b) Knowingly performs an act which he knows he is forbidden by law to perform; or (c) With intent to obtain a personal advantage for himself or another, he performs an act in excess of his lawful authority; [...] A public officer or employee or special government agent convicted of violating any provision of this Section forfeits his office or employment or position as a special government agent. In addition, he commits a Class 3 felony." The Illinois Supreme Court last year used this exact reasoning in the case, Illinois v. Howard, in which the court upheld the conviction of a mayor who used a city issued credit card to obtain cash advances which he promptly repaid out of his own funds when the bill arrived. The mayor didn't steal the money, but he illegally used the public credit card for personal gain. So let's look at the unauthorized use of the Gordon Park maintenance shed to store personal vehicle(s) in light of this ruling. Did it involve using public property for a non-public, personal use? Yes. Was the offender a public official or employee? Yes. Did the offender "obtain a personal advantage for himself or another in excess of his lawful authority"? Yes. Did the offender "knowingly perform an act which he knows he is forbidden by law to perform"? Yes, assuming the park district did an adequate job of training that employee. So that's my basis for using the word "illegally." And while we are on the subject of employee training, are you aware that your park district attorney Tuesday denied my request, filed under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, to take a look at your personnel policy manual? Could it be that there is some procedure regarding investigating employee wrongdoing that was not properly followed in this case?
Chris, Our special report (accessible via the link at the bottom of the post above) documents the instances where PDLG officials confirmed that at least one boat that did not belong to the district was stored in the garage at Gordon Park. But I'll reiterate four of them here: 1) Dean himself told me personally last November he determined that one boat had been stored in the garage and that an employee had come forward and admitted responsibility had consequently been reprimanded. The park district's finance director, Leynette Kuniej, also was present at that meeting. 2) At the March 2009 regular meeting of the park board, I referenced Dean's finding and took issue with it. President Tim Kelpsas responded, "I am fully aware of the situation, I am fully aware of the investigation, and I am fully confident that the response has been handled appropriately." 3) Park Commissioner Chris Walsh wrote in a comment to a story posted on this blog March 20 that, in a closed meeting that followed the regular meeting, Bissias confirmed for the board his determination and further said that the that boat had been there for "less than week" and that the employee responsible "suffered financial consequences." 4) The Doings newspaper in its edition published the week of April 1 quoted Bissias as confirming his finding but also quoted him as saying that he never actually saw the boat. I hope that answers your question.